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Local SEO Citations: Fundamentals for Small Business

If you’re like the majority of small business owners, you already know that your local presence has a direct correlation with your bottom line.

These days however, distributing business cards, handing out flyers, and running a booth at community events isn’t enough. It’s equally as important that your business show up for people nearby when they turn to Google.

And it makes sense right? Pretty much everyone in the States is on a smart phone these days, and when they’re in need of a product, service, or a bite to eat, they search for good options online.

“50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same.” – Google Study

Hopefully it’s clear now, getting discovered locally online, can be a real game-changer.

In order to improve your local online presence, you’ll certainly need to adhere to SEO best practices, have a secure and stable site, etc. But you’ll also likely want to invest in building some consistent local citations.

What Are Local SEO Citations?

To put it simply, a local citation is an “online listing” for your business. More specifically however, it’s an online listing that includes references to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP).

We wrote about this a little more in-depth here, if you’re curious.

It’s not uncommon for citations to include more information than just your NAP. The most common would be a link to your website, which is definitely a plus. But as far as citations go, Google doesn’t require there be a website link for it to be a relevant local point of reference.

Consistency is key here. Not just for users, but for Google as well.

For instance, if you have more a different address listed in some of your citations, Google won’t know which one is the “correct” address. As you might imagine, that can hurt your local organic rankings and visibility. So be careful!

The wonderful folks at Moz have aggregated some pretty interesting data over the years, and it consistently shows local citation accuracy to be a key local ranking factor.

Alright so we’ve covered what a local citation is, and why they matter. Now it’s time to get started building your own.

How to Organize and Build Local Citations

There are two key steps to leveraging local SEO citations.

First, you’ll need to build some citations (if you haven’t done so already).

Second, you’ll want to optimize your citations, and confirm that they’re all displaying updated and consistent information.

How you go about this is really at your discretion.

Building local citations yourself

If you have the time and patience to do it yourself, it’s not rocket science.

It does require some legwork though. And it’s also all too easy to forget to regularly check listings for accuracy. Let’s not even mention the headache if you needed to change your business phone number.

But if you’re the DIY type, here’s how to get started.

First, build a list of where you’ll need to create listings. You can do this by:

Next, you’ll need to go and create local SEO citations at the directories you chose. If you already have citations at some, ensure that the information listed is still up to date and accurate.

Minor discrepancies do indeed matter, so be vigilant!

Bonus Tip: Creating these listings can get pretty tedious, fast. Consider using a tool like RoboForm that can save you a bunch of repetitive data-entry.

Subscribe to a local citation service

Local citation services are a compelling choice for many.

Most services will effectively outsource 100% of local SEO citation tasks, including:

  • Building targeted local listings
  • Ensuring accuracy on all citations, no matter how old
  • Easy update to information (they can disseminate information updates when needed)
  • Access to some exclusive directories (that require a partnership with the vendor)

Luckily, you’re rather spoiled for choice when it comes to local citation services. There are a number of compelling choices.

We have our own local citation service that sits nicely between some of the other offerings. Here are some details on your choices.

RankPay Local Citation Builder

Our local citation builder service sits squarely in the middle of the playing field. While our pricing is higher than Yext, we provide an added layer of manual oversight and discretion that we’ve seen make a big difference in local rankings.

Particularly, we’ll find industry relevant places to build citations that more automated services do not. We also (where appropriate) include our clients’ keyword focus in local citations. We regularly see this wholesome approach to local SEO materially affect local organic rankings.

Yext

Yext is the biggest player in the local citation service space, and they have a fairly compelling offering that will work for many business owners as well. The entry-level plan will be best for most, as the hundreds of additional directories they include in more expensive plans are mostly fluff. At least, we have never seen them to be impactful when our clients’ have tested them.

Moz Local, WhiteSpark, & BrightLocal

All three of these choices will be safe bets for most small business owners. Each has a strong reputation, is involved in the local SEO community at large, and has worked hard to provide a worthwhile service offer.

Of course, each has unique pros and cons, so you’ll likely want to do some independent research to differentiate between them.

Wrapping Up

At the end of the day, many small businesses will succeed or fail based upon their ability to generate local attention, traffic, and sales.

Local citation building (and optimizing) is just one piece of the puzzle, but in the Google age, it’s definitely an essential one.

So if you haven’t already taken the time to invest in local SEO listings, don’t wait any longer. It’s not a particularly expensive endeavor and the benefits are material!

Marketing jack-of-all-trades, ascendant wordsmith, and self-proclaimed World’s Best Dog Dad. I write about SEO, social media and content marketing.
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